Picking Grapes with Claudia Fandino

In this edition, Claudia Fandino, GM & Beverage Director at Barbara restaurant in Chinatown, shines a light on her favourite local wine producers...

Picking Grapes with Claudia Fandino

Portrait of Claudia by Katherine Koniecki.

Picking Grapes is a new series that asks wine professionals to map out their complex relationships with British Columbian wines by citing the ignition point of their interest and some of their favourite wineries.

Today we put our Picking Grapes questions to Claudia Fandino, GM & Beverage Director at Barbara restaurant…

What was the BC wine that you first fell in love with? Do you remember where you were? What were the circumstances?

In 2019, Scout Vineyard released three different Rieslings and they absolutely blew my mind. It was during the fall of 2019, months before the opening of Published on Main Street. We were tasting a world of beautifully executed low intervention wines, and this golden liquid one was about to go on the wine list.

I do have to mention that there is another wine that stole my heart a few months later: Else Wines’ Muscat on Skins. I will never forget how thrilled I was when it arrived at my door and how much I fell in love with this special juice. It gave me so much joy to try this wine on a sunny afternoon on my balcony during the first BC lockdown. It gave me hope.

Scout Vineyard Similkameen Valley, B.C MAP

Which local winery are you most looking forward to visiting, and why?

I am really interested in what’s happening on Salt Spring Island, and I am looking forward to visiting Kutatás there. I love their ‘Patricia Bay’ Pinot Noir and their Sauvignette. I’ve also been impressed by a couple of wines coming from the Cowichan Valley. There is great fruit coming from the West Coast!

Kutatás Wines 164 Norton Rd, Salt Spring Island, BC MAP

Supporting small, BC businesses has become especially important these days. We know it’s difficult to narrow it down, but if you had to choose just three local wineries that you think are especially deserving of our attention, who would you choose?

It really is difficult to narrow it down but these three are some of my favourites:

Echo Bay Winery, which is also home of Else Wines and Rigour & Whimsy, who respectively produce very interesting wines.

Scout Vineyards, also home of Thorn & Burrow and delicious Marrow Vermouth (three outstanding labels/producers to shine light on).

Sage Hills! I absolutely love what Keenan and Zoe are doing, and will definitely keep an eye open for any new releases under both Sage Hills and Keenan labels.

Scout Vineyard Similkameen Valley, B.C MAP
Echo Bay Vineyards 224 Eastside Rd, Okanagan Falls, BC MAP
Sage Hills Estate Winery & Vineyards 18555 Matsu Drive, Summerland MAP

Have the last two years reshaped your approach to buying, serving, and enjoying wine in any way? If so, how?

Definitely. I completely shifted to mostly BC wines for that first year of the pandemic. It became extremely important to support local businesses and, to be honest, I was very pleased to discover the quality of wine that BC has to offer. Our wine list at Barbara showcases exclusively BC wines. We change wine on the list almost as often as we change the food menu! It goes to show there are so many fun and interesting wines to be delighted by in this province.

What sort of changes, if any, do you think that the local wine industry – from wine lovers and servers, to the producers and distributors – might see in the future?

Now that BC’s style of wine is established, the focus on quality and terroir will continue to rise. Finding unique climates and places will continue to allow the ability to match grapes with the most suitable places for them to grow. There will be more sub-GIs, organic and sustainable grape growing and, therefore, more limitless joy-generating wines to be drank.

What is the one versatile BC wine you recommend for pairing this autumn?

I am particularly inclined to the only skin contact wine project by Alex Thornley at Thorn & Burrow. I think T&B Chardonnay is a wonderfully versatile wine.

If you could work in just one local winery for just one harvest, which would it be and why?

It would be Sage Hills. I think it would be a fun yet informative experience, as we know harvests require long hours and hard work! This little piece of paradise in Summerland, BC perfectly aligns with what I believe in: organic, sustainable, small batch wine.

Sage Hills Estate Winery & Vineyards 18555 Matsu Drive, Summerland MAP

Can you recommend one local, emblematic-of-BC red wine for someone who didn’t even know that wine was made here? Why did you choose it?

Echo Bay’s ‘Synoptic’ – their signature red blend. This wine is elegant, balanced and decadent. Echo Bay focuses on natural practises including biodynamics and minimal intervention wine making. Beautiful farm, beautiful fruit, beautiful wine.

Echo Bay Vineyards 224 Eastside Rd, Okanagan Falls, BC MAP

What about a white?

Little Farm’s ‘Pied De Cuve’ Riesling is probably my favourite BC white. They are another incredible farm producing high quality wines that are an impressive expression of the Similkameen Valley.

Little Farm WInery 2155 Newton Rd, Cawston, BC MAP

And finally, a rose?

I love deep roses, maybe even a very light red, slightly chilled. That’s what I am into, but I have to admit that an ancestral method by Bella is always a good go-to. I love their ‘Buddha’s Blend’.

Bella Wines 4320 Gulch Road, Site 15A Comp 2, Naramata MAP

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